Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Asian ports must find new ways to gain growth–SBMA chair

SUBIC BAY FREE PORT—Asian ports reeling from slow cargo trade should look for new opportunities behind the economic crisis if they are to survive and do business for another day.

With this bit of advice, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chairman Feliciano Salonga challenged members of the International Network of Affiliated Ports (Inap) to create alternatives to further develop their business and act on new prospects.

“The [maritime] industry operates in a global environment and grows or shrinks proportionately with trade activities all over the world,” said Salonga, a graduate of the US Merchant Marine Academy and former president of the Philippine Shipyard and Engineering Corp.

“But the proverbial silver lining behind today’s economic slump is the fact that while every crisis is different, all crises have one thing in common—they all create opportunities, especially for those who can identify them and are ready to act,” he added.

He also noted that despite the largely stagnant cargo trade, “ports remain critical to the financial health of most economies around the world.”

Salonga opened the Inap 11th general assembly in Mokpo, South Korea, last week as the outgoing chairman, and later turned over the leadership of the organization to Choi Byeong-Soo, the chief executive officer of Mokpo Newport Co. Ltd.

After stressing the importance of Inap’s strategic alliance and that the group’s policies and actions “impact on the entire maritime port industry of the Asia-Pacific region,” Salonga urged members of the port network “to reestablish priorities.”

“We in Inap can definitely be part of the solution—if we do what we ought to do and do it well,” Salonga said.

He added that the group should take a fresh look at how to manage the fiscal and operational aspects of ports, where to find new revenue streams and, at the same time, control costs.

Salonga also exhorted Inap members “to discuss how we can attract more ports to join Inap,” which, he said, had been joined by only three new members in the last 11 years.

Salonga said by tackling these twin tasks, Inap could “manage to be heard and heeded as a formidable voice and authority in the industry.”

In urging ports to look for alternative revenue sources, Salonga cited the “unprecedented growth in revenue” at the Subic Bay Free Port despite the current economic slowdown.

He said the Port of Subic, which had lately become a choice anchorage for international seagoing vessels waiting out the recession, “provides a good example of how opportunities could be created out of unfortunate events.”

Salonga said collections from vessel lay-ups in Subic Bay, as well as wharfage fees on imported products, brought Subic seaport’s revenue total in the first seven months this year to P319.73 million. This amount was P3.43 million more than the revenue target set by the SBMA for this year and represented a 15.7-percent growth over 2008 figures.

“Our port collection from these laid-up ships, along with other equally significant factors, has allowed our seaport operations to achieve its revenue targets for 2009, as early as July,” Salonga said in his speech before the Inap assembly.

“So, today’s economic crisis should not be any different—if we attack it with logical examination, passionate zeal and decisiveness,” he also said.

Hosting of the Inap general assembly rotated to the Mokpo Newport this year, after the convention was held in this free port in 2008 under the auspices of the SBMA.

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